SIBU: Sacred Heart Old Students Association (Shosa) fully supports Sarawak on its right to use English as a medium of instruction in schools in the state.
Its president Yong King Sung said here yesterday that there is no legal restriction on the use of English for teaching and learning in Sarawak.
“We in Shosa unanimously support Bahasa Melayu (BM) as our national language. But there is no law in Sarawak that says we cannot use English as the medium of instruction in schools and government departments in the state.
“Therefore, we are of the opinion that Sarawak should have the right to use English for the betterment of our future generation, more so because proficiency in English is pivotal to enable us to ride on the waves of Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0
“For the record, English is the international language of trade and commerce. In fact, our neighbour, Singapore, due to the wide use of English there has progressed far ahead of us,” he pointed out.
Yong noted that Sarawak’s rights on the use of English is clearly enshrined under Article 152(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution which states: “No person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language.”
“There was a previous case, which clarified that there is a constitutional right to teach and learn any language as a separate subject.
“Therefore, any educational institution in Sarawak can teach any language, including English language. In addition to the right to teach and learn English, English language can also be the main medium of instruction in any educational institution in Sarawak but subject to the national language (Malay language) being taught as a compulsory subject as provided in section 17 of the Education Act 1996,” he cited.
“Furthermore, languages be they BM or English, strengthen racial harmony and solidarity in the country,” he added.
Yong said he does not see why the younger generation should not master more than one language in school.
“Back in the 80s, when English was the medium of instruction in schools, all of us had a good command of English besides doing well in Bahasa Malaysia. Even in those days, the importance of the national language was never ignored but strengthened,” he recalled.
According to Yong, English-medium schools nationwide are actually gaining popularity with the mushrooming of international schools or private English-medium schools.
In this regard, he opined that the Education Ministry’s move in not allowing the use of English as a medium of instruction in national schools as reported by an online news portal, could well widen the knowledge gap between the well-to-do students in the urban and those in rural areas, particularly with regard to English proficiency.